The three “X Factor” finalists performed Wednesday as if they were on three different shows. The differences were like night and day and that really annoying time of the morning when you wake up too early and can’t get back to sleep, then finally do fall back asleep five minutes before your alarm goes off. That last description would be for Fifth Harmony, an infuriating act for so many reasons, most of which have to do with their being derivative, uncreative and strangely averse to the idea of harmony.
This was really a competition between Tate Stevens and Carly Rose Sonenclar, two performers who could both realistically and deservingly sail to victory. Fifth Harmony was just there to help fill the unnecessary extra hour and 30 minutes of the show.
Each contestant did three songs: a favorite that they’ve previously performed; a duet with someone famous; and an inspirational Hail Mary. And every act had a video feed of fans back home: Carly’s in Westchester, New York, which is not a town, but a county, people; Tate’s in Benton, Missouri; and Fifth Harmony’s at Ally’s San Antonio church.
But first—a painfully misguided tribute to the Newtown shooting victims. Unlike other shows that have paid tribute with a touching song sung in unison (“The Voice,” “SNL”), on “The X Factor,” all former and current contestants sang solo in succession. It was a mistake featuring them all as individuals in a song that should have been about coming together, Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone.” Especially in a competition setting, it felt more self-serving than unifying.
Carly was up first, and for her favorite, she reprised her audition song, “Feeling Good,” which was as phenomenal as the first time. But all her thunder was stolen from her by an out of it LeAnn Rimes, who duetted with her on “How Do I Live” in one of the most awkward moments on any of these shows ever. Rather than support Carly in one of her final judged performances, she sang over Carly constantly, kept getting really close to her, and I swear if millions of people weren’t watching, putting a 13-year-old in such close contact to someone who seemed so off would have been inappropriate. But Carly came back on her last number, one of the most covered songs in history, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a song that’s had quite a month, what with a new book about it (“The Holy or the Broken,”) a 25 minutes of WNYC’s “Soundcheck” devoted to its history, and the Newtown tribute on “The Voice.” Carly’s version probably won’t wind up among the definitive, but on this show, it was enough to win her $5 million, as her coach Britney Spears pointed out. “That song alone was worth $5 million, so you should get out your checkbook, Simon,” Britney said in the longest speech she’s given since the live shows began.
Tate did three songs Wednesday that non-country fans (meaning me) have never heard before. Kind of a cool thing, to be honest. He started with his audition song, a Randy Houser’s “Anything Goes,” and sounded like a pro. Tate’s mayor loved it so much, he gave Tate a water tower. For his second number, he boogied a bit with Little Big Town on “Pontoon,” a super cute song made better by Tate’s super cute dancing—the “white man’s overbite,” if you will. (See: “When Harry Met Sally.”) Khloe Kardashian Odom had the nerve to ask Tate’s coach LA Reid what he thought about this “collabo.” COLLABO? Tate wrapped with Chris Young’s “Tomorrow,” and it sounded like his voice has improved over the last few weeks on the show. There was more nuance here than ever before. He’s so good.
Fifth Harmony’s favorite song of the season, while admittedly was their best performance so far, happened to have only been performed on the show LAST WEEK: “Anything Could Happen.” Not only was the song choice redundant, but they did the exact. same. production. Quincenera dresses and giant bows and all. The only difference—maybe—was more confetti. Somehow the judges decided not to call them out on being so blatantly lazy. Their “collabo” was with Demi Lovato on ANOTHER song they already did this season, “Give Your Heart a Break.” Really, this was Demi’s moment; it was great seeing her be good at something after a season of sucking as a coach. For their last song, they chose “Let it Be.” Yes, it’s a Beatles song, and no, they can’t sing the Beatles. But they didn’t even try to Fifth Harmonize. It was just another series of solos, and sure, Dinah’s was pretty good, but knowing full well that everyone wants them to, oh I don’t know, use harmony in their songs, it was a big mistake.
My guess: Fifth Harmony in third, Carly in second and Tate the winner. Tune in tomorrow for an hour and 58 minutes of not-results!